Swept Away by Digital Media: ‘Immersions’ opening night

When they hand you 3D glasses on your way in, you know it’s going to be a good party.

‘Immersions’, an exhibition at the Lewis Elton Gallery on the Surrey campus, was a collaboration of artists, designers and engineers working on the future of film, photography and sound recording.

According to CoDE’s Professor David Frohlich, who led the project, ‘This is quite a typical Digital World Research Centre (DWRC) project in the sense of being interdisciplinary – but it’s also a new direction for us to involve artists in a project. The exhibit, therefore, is an exploration of content from an artistic point of view – but technology is very much present!’

The exhibition was driven by multi-media photography towards exploring the immersive nature of media (image and sound) and the ‘transporting’ nature of sound. Taking water – immersive by its very nature – as their theme,  the artists play on the boundaries between sound, still and moving images, and experience to create an immersive and, importantly, social audio-visual experience (as opposed to isolating and individual virtual reality headsets).

Kaihe Guo, who presented the wall projection ‘Healing Waters’, pointed out that ‘What you hear is as important as what you see. Sound changes how we experience image; it’s a kind of meditation, changing the way we experience life and events.’

3D photography and film, by Ethel Davies, also featured as another ‘immersive and social’ experience of an image, ‘changing the seeing’.

Hence the glasses.

Guo concluded that ‘attention is a luxury in an age of distraction’. Giving ourselves to multi-sensory attention was unusual and unexpected: the experience of image – processed like thought, with the intellect – combined with sound – an immersion in feeling, experienced with the body – was relaxing and transfixing, instantly altering the consciousness.

Is this the future of photo sharing? ‘We dream big,’ says David. ‘ I think we could aim for an experience of meeting a friend inside a photo you have taken with them in the past and exploring that time and place together, choosing the audio-visual context in which you want to meet them.’

Digital media is taking us to places we never thought possible, erasing boundaries between disciplines and experiences, and sweeping us along. To quote Emily Dickinson – in a poem used by artist Christian Kroos as the theme for his ‘complicit inundation’ installation – ‘You cannot fold a flood/ and put it in a drawer….’

Stayed tuned to DWRC to find out what’s coming next in digital media!

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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.